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OP-ED: What you need to know before writing a book

  • Published at 01:21 am April 6th, 2021

An analysis of legislations concerning book publication in Bangladesh

In order to commemorate the historic language movement of February 21, 1952, Ekushey Boi Mela is held every year at the Bangla Academy. The same is happening this year and it’s an occasion for excitement for all the authors along with the hope of getting in touch with their respective readers. 

New writers launch their first authored books in book fairs every year to observe how the books are sold and accepted. Admittedly, books and literature are considered a part of Bangladesh’s culture. The steps to arrange the Ekushey Book Fair is effective to preserve the book reading culture from being demolished. 

As citizens of Bangladesh, people must also maintain the legality of book publications and thus, some legislations are passed in this regard. Among the existing legislations on publication, there are The Copyright Act, 2000, The Publication of Books (Regulation and Control) Ordinance 1965, and The Printing Presses and Publications (Declaration and Registration) Act, 1973.        

The Copyright Act, 2000 has been passed, replacing The Copyright Act, 1962 after the independence of the country and it plays a substantial role in preventing the work of the author from being copied by another person. The author or creator as a general rule, automatically acquires the copyright after the creation of work and no formalities are required for that, irrespective of whether the outcome of the work is below standard or accurate or inaccurate. 

Registration of copyright may sometimes operate as prime facie evidence in case of seeking remedies for its infringement. In Bangladesh, civil, criminal, and administrative remedies are available for infringement of copyright. Whereas the registration is held and the work is illegally duplicated by another, the aggrieved party can apply to the Registrar to ban the copies from being imported.    

Sometimes, the owner can issue a license of the copyright to a third party to assign all or certain rights regarding the work. These rights can include adaptation, reproduction, publication, translation, communication to the public etc.  

On a different note, an author of a book gets copyright protection for life which extends to 60 years after his death. In case of government work, the duration is 60 years from the date of its publication. Furthermore, the work becomes public property after expiration of the period of protection. 

The Publication of Books (Regulation and Control) Ordinance 1965 is enforceable in Bangladesh as per the provision of section 1(2) of the ordinance. According to section 4(2), the government or any officer empowered can refuse permission to print or publish any book which can destroy the cultural, traditional, and national values of the country. 

So, an author must keep the fact in mind regarding how his own country is going to be represented in his writing. Otherwise, his manuscript can be rejected by the governmental body. The ordinance has provided scope to the aggrieved party to prefer an appeal against such a rejection order.   

Section 3 of The Printing Presses and Publications (Declaration and Registration) Act, 1973 states that the names of the publisher, printer, and place of publication are required to be mentioned on the book upon its publication. 

It can be considered one of the most important provisions to judge the authenticity of a published book. Contravention of this provision is punishable with a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both. Moreover, one must observe the legality of a printing press before he makes any contract regarding publication. 

The act has provided provision that any person wanting to be the possessor of a printing press must apply to subscribe for declaration in Form A to the district magistrate of the district where the press is situated. Such declaration is required to be sealed and signed by the said district magistrate but before that, he must be satisfied with the facts that the publisher is a citizen of Bangladesh, that the person making the declaration is authorized to do so, and that the person acting as publisher is of sound mind.

Publication of books requires time and hard work, particularly for the authors and publishers to successfully publish books and give something valuable to the readers. This hard work should not be wasted due to being unaware of the legal provisions of publication and face a ban or rejection in consequence of the failure to comply with such provisions. 

Hence, the knowledge of legislations of book publication have to be spread as much as possible. In this way, we can protect our national language and book reading culture and also increase the number of readers.

Nazia Amin is a Lawyer.